That vaccine mandate at Indiana University

Indiana University stirred outrage with a reasonable COVID-19 vaccine mandate for faculty, staff and students, prompting Indiana’s attorney general and dozens of state legislators to object. When faced with a possible legal challenge, IU loosened the requirement. A vaccination is still technically required, but the university cannot ask for proof of vaccination status.

The university’s logic is that this is the fastest and safest way to get back to normal – eliminating expensive mitigation testing, allowing full in-person instruction, and eliminating both social distancing (including capacity limits) and mask mandates. They are correct. Herd immunity was always going to be the way out of the pandemic, as it has been for measles and other highly contagious diseases.

In comparison to the liberty already lost during the pandemic, especially from forcibly closing business and putting millions of people out of work, an employer or school mandating a vaccination is something that is relatively minor. Yes, the vaccine can have side effects for some people. I was sick for 24 hours once it kicked in, with fever, body aches, nausea and extreme fatigue. But not everyone has side effects and many people only have soreness around the injection site.

Vaccinated people can avoid quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19, unless they develop symptoms. This will increase productivity and decrease lost work hours. Getting vaccinated also protects vulnerable populations, especially people who for some reason cannot safely take the vaccine. At a place with large crowds like Indiana University, herd immunity will prevent large outbreaks that can spread into the Bloomington community at large and even farther than that.

We should not be unnecessarily cynical, though, about opposition to the mandate. Dismissing opposition as “politics” is a cynical response. I personally know some legislators who are sincere in their opposition to the vaccine mandate. Many Leftists want to pretend that we live in a technocracy where we only listen to “experts,” but that has never been and should not be the case. Politicians are elected to balance interests, including lives lost to the pandemic and lives lost to “deaths of despair.” Every policy decision made – including the vaccine mandate – is inherently political.

No, a vaccination mandate is not ideal, but herd immunity is the best way to protect the community (and especially vulnerable populations) against COVID-19. This was the right decision, and it is unfortunate that the university will not be able to truly enforce the mandate.